And the servant said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the servant, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.” – Luke 14:22-23
I have a lot of stuff I could write about this afternoon. John’s excellent message at church, the helpful discussion we had around Christ’s Transfiguration in my discipleship class, or some important thoughts I’ve been exploring regarding the relationship of freedom to trust.
Those are all worthwhile, but the most important piece of reporting I can offer comes from the poignant sense of frustration and disappointment Rebekah is feeling today because she wasn’t able to be in church with the community she loves so deeply.
PAIN HURTS: This is important for several reasons. First, because it comments on the extent to which severe pain can impact every detail of life. We often discount the cost of pain because it is difficult to imagine in someone else, because it is so personal. Pain is not something you can see on an MRI – even though I looked at Rebekah’s imaging, and I could see exactly where her disk is, how it impacts her spine, and what it is doing.
Pain beyond a tolerable threshold is completely debilitating. Pain arrests movement, it demolishes rest, it alters metabolism, it affects thinking. This is not me being morose, or gloomy, so much as it is a PSA (public service announcement). We likely see people in pain every day – both physical and emotional – and yet we tend to evaluate every interaction through the perspective of our own demands, or own wants, our own agenda, our own self focus.
Recognizing the reality of other people’s pain can go a long way toward contributing to their healing.
COMMUNITY: Then, Rebekah’s reaction to missing worship today reminds me of how wonderful it is to be in a vibrant community of faith. According to recent Gallup reports, less than twenty percent of Americans attend church with any regularity. People don’t believe or understand that they’re missing out, because they don’t have any reference point to compare with! “Oh, they’ll come back to church when they start to miss it,” is irrelevant for 80% of the population!
Being a committed part of a worshiping, loving, serving community of believers is a beautiful and nourishing experience. But people who haven’t experienced this kind of community won’t miss it when they don’t come! Therefore it is incumbent on those of us who know enough to miss church like crazy when we’re not there, to do all we can to share this richness, this joy, this connection with God with all the creative imagination we can muster.
If you have more than enough food and there are people starving, then you invite them in to eat; it’s a no-brainer. There are people starving for meaning, and purpose, and joy – a restored relationship with God – and we have the words of eternal life…
Many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life….” – John 6:66-68
I pray all people understand that a beautiful expression of God’s nurturing love is waiting for them in their local church. Fact is, it will be that much better because you are there.
You don’t have to wait until you first believe, you simply have to come home.